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Marathon Training Take 2: What’s different

Marathon Training Take 2: What's different
Marathon Training Take 2: What’s different

I learned a lot training for and running my first marathon. You can read my post on 26 Lessons Learned here. I made it through relatively unscathed – just the usual aches and pains, tight muscles, and fatigue but no serious injuries – and I finished the race! The second time around, I am experimenting with new things to ultimately improve my marathon time.


Here’s what I’m trying out this training cycle:

Eating Grain and Bean Free

Earlier this summer, I wrote about trying the Whole30 Challenge: 30 days of no grains, dairy, gluten, beans, legumes, soy, and processed ingredients. I’m definitely not as strict now, but still follow the general Whole30 principles on a daily basis. I can’t remember the last time I ate oatmeal or chickpeas and I’m doing my best to limit protein powder and bars.

I know now that I wasn’t eating enough while training for my first marathon.

I really struggled with fatigue and often felt like I was in a fog during my long runs. I remember one night I was so hungry that I went to the drugstore at 11:00 pm and bought candy. For someone who never eats candy (except dark chocolate of course) I knew something must be wrong. Rarely do I feel this way now, and if I do I know it’s time to eat something. Removing grains, beans, and legumes from my diet has also really improved my digestion.


Natural Fuel Options

The first time I tried a gel (raspberry Gu with caffeine) I thought: these things are magic. I couldn’t believe the quick boost they gave me. But let’s be real, they are kind of nasty. The texture, the extreme sugariness. I’ve recently been trying out natural fuel options on my long runs. I miss the caffeine in gels and haven’t quite found something that gives me the same boost so the process of experimentation continues!

Natural fuel options that I have tried so far: 

Dates (be sure to pit them before)

Dates stuffed with nut butter (messy in warm weather)

Nut butter packets (satiating and my favourite option so far)

Banana (impractical, I picked this up when I was really hungry on a long run)

Vega gels (slightly less processed and sugary but an acquired taste)

Nakd Bars and Larabars (tasty but don’t provide as much of an energy boost)


Prioritizing Sleep and Rest

This change may be the most enjoyable but it has been one of the hardest to implement and is still a work in progress. I don’t know how I functioned on less than 7 hours of sleep during my first training cycle. I definitely don’t want to do that again! I aim for 7.5-8 hours every night. I am trying to make less plans during the week so I can get to bed early enough to wake up for 6 am workouts.

I am also trying not to over-schedule my weekends with adventures. 

I struggle with not going out and exploring every weekend, especially in the summer when the weather is beautiful and the mountains are calling. I am trying to schedule in a bit more time on the weekends to sit down and do nothing.


Training with a group

I trained for my first marathon mostly on my own. People always ask me how I did so many long runs alone. At the time, I didn’t think much of it. I was excited to conquer the long distances and explore new places. I was also partly scared I wouldn’t be able to run that far and would embarrass myself in a group.

One of the best decisions I made when I signed up for the Portland Marathon was to also sign up for an 18-week marathon clinic.

Our Tuesday night workouts are challenging but motivating. There are runners who are much better than me and it is fun to try and keep up with them. I love having other people doing a hard workout with me, to encourage each other during the workout and to celebrate with when it’s done. Chatting with friends during a long run certainly makes it go by faster. I’m also likely doing my long runs at a faster pace than I would on my own. I love that our clinic leaders plan out the long run routes, although they do put in way more hills than I would!

2016-08-06 MEC North Van 10k 011

Running more

During my first training cycle, I ran 3 days a week plus 4 strength and conditioning workouts, 1 yoga class, 1 rest day and usually 1 hike per week. This time, I have added in a 4th day of easy running.

As much as I am a strong proponent of strength and conditioning and know my weekly group personal training classes benefit my running, you can’t get better at running unless you run more. I am hoping the extra easy run day will improve my aerobic base and make me a more efficient and faster runner.


Longer training cycle

The decision to sign up for my first marathon was a little sporadic. I was registered for the BMO Half Marathon and decided 12 weeks out from the race to switch to the full marathon. It made things feel a little rushed and there was really no time built in for recovery weeks. My current training cycle is 18 weeks and I have really been enjoying that extra cushion of time.

I’d love to know what you are trying right now in order to improve your running?

  • So far in this cycle, I’m pretty much doing my long runs alone. Last week was 15 and it actually wasn’t too bad – I put a good podcast on. I feel like it will get more challenging as they get longer though. And I can definitely see the benefit of groups for speed workouts. I still need to do better with sleep!

    • says:

      Nicely done, 15 is definitely a long time to run on your own! I come and go with podcasts… but do find they can help pass the time. Hope you have a great long run this weekend!

  • I definitely overschedule myself with adventures. At times, my body is like I JUST WANT TO REST AND DO NOTHING! and I’m like, “But, adventures!” ; “Summer is ending ASAP! I can sleep and relax in the winter” Hahaha

    I actually feel better (more energized) with some grain in my diet – like oatmeal/bread/quinoa/rice cakes. I find them easier to digest than fibery stuff. Hear ya on beans. They make my insides feel stabby/bloated.

    • says:

      Haha that is my mentality, sleep in winter! Until I got sick this week… alas. I am currently sitting down on a Saturday morning, it’s crazy! Hehe. Yeah I was craving oatmeal actually yesterday, so maybe I’ll bring it on back!

  • All of these changes will make a big difference for you! Sleep is huge- I really drag when I’m running low on sleep. And nutrition of course is also key. 18 weeks is ideal timing to build the mileage and have cut back weeks in there too. I’m excited for you!

  • Looks like you’ve really thought about what worked and didn’t work for you in your last training round.
    I’ve done a lot of training with real food. I tried to use it almost exclusively in my last marathon training but when it came to race day, I used the gels because like you said, nothing else quite gives you that same energy boost.

    • says:

      Haha I have definitely thought about it a whole lot! That’s great advice about saving gels for the actual race… the boost is all that much more apparent!

  • I have been doing a lot of the same things you have! Sleep and eating right are big for me.

  • Good training! Reading your article, i recognize some the same things between mine and you. ^^

  • Carmy says:

    I’m one of those paranoid people who would want a 30 week training plan haha. But I love that you listened to your body and are adjusting instead of just going with that others say is okay.

    • says:

      Hahaha I don’t think I would last 30 weeks, or I would forget what I was training for! 😛 But I totally get wanting lots of time and building in a cushion for recovery, things that pop pup, makes it a little less stressful. I got so much advice training the first time, some good, some bad. I’ve learned to just take it with a grain of salt!

  • I have to cut back on hiking during marathon training also. Last year I tried to do a lot of hiking and it was too much on my body – but then again, I was also following a hard training plan. I’m excited to see how you do in Portland – it’s approaching quickly!

    • says:

      Yeah it’s tough balancing having some semblance of hobbies outside of running, while focusing on marathon training! That’s why I think I have been so drawn to trail running lately… combining hiking and running 😉

  • […] are two options for the cleanse: the classic and the fat-burner. I chose the fat-burner because it did not have beans, grains, or legumes on the ingredient […]

  • […] eat to fuel my runs. Looking back, I had a lot of brain fog and low energy especially during my first marathon training cycle, and I’m sure that was largely from […]

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